The Sick America that Conservatives Want

In the aftermath of the 2010 elections, America is getting a sample of the kind of society conservatives want to create. It is not a pretty picture.

With the House of Representatives under Republican control, and many states with Republican governors and legislatures, a pattern is emerging that foreshadows the future we can expect if conservatives recapture the Senate and White House next November.

Florida, under Governor Rick Scott, provides such examples of conservative rule as drug testing for welfare applicants, removal of all consumer protection, absence of child welfare and degradation of education. Meanwhile, the state is slashing corporate taxes and abolishing business regulations.

All of the other Republican dominated states have adopted a similar approach. And they all have attacked workers’ rights and laid off firemen, law enforcement officials and teachers.

The effect will inevitably be to reshape society into two classes – the very rich and the miserably poor. You can find examples of this type of  society all over Latin America. Americans used to scoff at these countries as “banana republics.” Now, America is becoming one.

But that’s just a part of the story. There’s an even more sinister movement afoot.

It’s the sadistic persecution of the powerless.

I cannot figure out why some people delight in exercising power over others, and in punishing and tormenting those who break their draconian rules. It seems to be a part of human nature. I knew boys like that at boarding school. They took pleasure in the pain of others.

These bullies have grown up and become Republican politicians. They are picking on gays and women and other minorities, while blasphemously quoting the scriptures as justification.

Nowhere is the effect more tragic than in the criminalizing of abortion.

As a young reporter, I used to write stories about the horrible business of back-alley abortions. When abortion was illegal in North America, only the rich could afford to have one legally. They could hop on a plane and fly to some country that had legal abortions. The poor had to resort to amateur abortionists with coat hangers.

Sadly, this kind of butchery is returning to America as Republican legislatures enact laws to make legal abortions more and more difficult to obtain.

In a Daily Beast article, Michelle Goldberg reports that:

Underground abortions have returned to the United States, just as pro-choice activists have warned for years. And women have started going to jail for the crime of ending their own pregnancies, or trying to.

Here’s the picture as she found it:

In recent years, several women have been arrested on suspicion of causing their own abortions, or attempting to. Most have come from conservative rural states with few clinics and numerous restrictions on abortion. In America’s urban centers and liberal enclaves, the idea of women being prosecuted for taking desperate measures to end their pregnancies might seem inconceivable, a never-again remnant of the era before Roe v. Wade. In fact, it’s a slowly encroaching reality….

A woman doesn’t even have to be trying to abort to find herself under arrest. Last year, a pregnant 22-year-old in Iowa named Christine Taylor ended up in the hospital after falling down a flight of stairs. A mother of two, she told a nurse she’d tripped after an upsetting phone conversation with her estranged husband. Though she’d gone to the hospital to make sure her fetus was OK, she confessed that she’d been ambivalent about the pregnancy and unsure whether she was ready to become a single mother of three….

These cases are a harbinger of what’s to come as abortion laws have become increasingly strict and abortion clinics harder to access in the more conservative parts of the country. They demonstrate the lengths to which women will go to end unwanted pregnancies. But even more, they demonstrate that criminalizing abortion means turning women who have abortions into criminals.

It’s a sad and ugly picture. And it’s what the conservatives are fighting for – one of the things they are fighting for.

The others are just as wretched – downtrodden minorities, abused consumers, overbearing employers, a decaying infrastructure and a populace so uneducated that they can easily be manipulated by an unscrupulous theocracy.